This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first successful climb of Mt. Everest by an American. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the first summit of Mt. Everest by the Western Ridge.
We are all familiar with the first ever successful summit of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in the 1953 British expedition. Understandably, much less is known about the first successful American expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest. Jim Whittaker became the first American to summit Mt. Everest along with the Sherpa Nawang Gombu (nephew of Tenzing Norgay). In the same expedition, Dr. Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld completed the first successful summit of Mt. Everest using the Western Ridge. I wanted to make this post so I can share some photos of the expedition. A good account of expedition can be found on the National Geographic site here.
Many have argued that this summit attempt was perhaps the last expedition style climb to be made, involving large teams of climbers, Sherpas, and gear to be progressively carried to higher camps. The expedition approach has made a comeback in recent years since Mt. Everest has become a tourist attraction, and expedition style guided climbs have become the norm. In a recent interview, Jim Whittaker discussed the differences between climbing Mt. Everest 50 years ago and doing it now. You can see the interview here.